JERUSALEM (JTA) – A crowd estimated at 30,000 flooded the funeral of American lone soldier Max Steinberg, who was killed in Gaza. Steinberg, a native of Los Angeles who came to Israel to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces several months after visiting for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip, was killed in Gaza on Sunday, when the armored personnel carrier he was riding in with six other members of the Golani Brigade was attacked by Hamas explosives. He was a sharpshooter in the elite brigade.
Steinberg’s parents and siblings traveled to Israel for the funeral, which was held Wednesday morning at the Har Herzl military cemetery. His mother, Evie, told Israel’s Channel 2 upon her arrival at Ben Gurion Airport that her son was “a hero.”
U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, who spoke at the funeral, said in a Facebook post later on Wednesday that the number of attendees at the funeral “was an amazing show of support and love, which gave real comfort to his wonderful family.”
An impromptu memorial service was held for Steinberg on Sunday night at a park near his family’s home in the San Fernando Valley, attended by family, friends and community members.
Steinberg’s funeral follows on the heels of the funeral Monday night at Haifa’s Sde Yehoshua military cemetery for lone soldier Sean Carmeli, a native of Texas. Some 20,000 people attended the funeral, after social media sites called on Israelis to attend the funeral since the lone soldier did not have much family in Israel. Maccabi Haifa, Carmeli’s favorite soccer team, asked its fans on Facebook to “accompany him on his final road and represent us as one family.”
A lone soldier from Lyon in France, Jordan Bensemhoun, was buried in Ashkelon’s military cemetery on Tuesday night. Some 6,000 people, most from the large French-Israeli community, attended the funeral, despite warnings against large gatherings in the city which is under frequent rocket fire from Gaza.